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Social Work

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Thesis-based program

Program overview

The Social Work Doctoral program graduates highly qualified social work researchers, educators and leaders.  

Completing this program

  • Courses: Required core courses (15 units) include Theory, History and Philosophy: Values, Ethics and Professional Beliefs; Research Foundations: Epistemology and Professional Knowledge-Building; Research Methods I: Quantitative; Research Methods II: Qualitative and Integrative Research Colloquia. Students must also complete 4 elective courses (12 units) relevant to their area of research.

  • Research Proposal: Students must have their dissertation proposal approved by their supervisory committee prior to applying for ethics certification and Field of Study Exam.

  • Portfolio: Students must have their portfolio approved by their supervisory committee at least 3 months before the Field of Study Exam.

  • Field of Study Exam: This includes a written and oral component, both of which must be completed to the satisfaction of the examining committee.

  • Dissertation: Students conduct original research and prepare a written dissertation which is evaluated and is orally defended before an examination committee.


Post-secondary academia, government, research, hospitals/community health centers, mental health clinics, schools, non-profit/advocacy groups, social service/child welfare/family service agencies, employee assistance programs, private counselling, consulting.

A PhD in social work is usually considered a final degree.

Completing the PhD does not qualify students to register with the Alberta College of Social Workers (CSW) unless they hold an accredited BSW or MSW.

Thesis-based program

Students are required to prepare a dissertation and successfully defend in an open oral defense.

Classroom delivery

Time commitment

Four years full-time; six years maximum


A supervisor is required; potential supervisors must be listed when applying to the program

Fees and funding

See the Graduate Calendar for information on fees and fee regulations, and for information on awards and financial assistance.


Learn about faculty available to supervise this degree.
Please note: additional supervisors may be available. For more information visit our website.

  1. Photograph of Dr. Heather M Boynton

    Heather M Boynton

    Spirituality , Holistic Health and Wellbeing, Interprofessional Education and Collaboration, Mental Health
  2. Profile

    Patrina Duhaney

    Accepting Inquiries
    Ethno-cultural, and racialized groups, Intimate partner violence, Criminal justice system/policing, Social work education/higher education, Social justice
  3. Placeholder Profile Image

    Yahya El-Lahib

    Accepting Inquiries
    Social work; Critical Disability Studies; Immigration, refugee and displacement studies; Social work & Bedouin Arabs; The scholarship of teaching and
  4. Placeholder Profile Image

    Rick Enns

    Accepting Inquiries
    Canadian Federal Indian Education Policy, Immigration and Resettlement Policy, Critical Social Work Practice in Mental Health
  5. Picture of Deinera Exner-Cortens

    Deinera Exner-Cortens

    Healthy Relationship Promotion/Violence Prevention, Suicide Prevention, School Mental Health, Program Evaluation, Implementation Science
  6. Linda Kreitzer

    Linda Kreitzer

    International Social Work, Refugees and immigrants, African social work issues, compassion fatigue, community practice International indigenous issues
  7. Yeonjung Lee

    Yeonjung Lee

    Accepting Inquiries
    Outcomes of Caregiving for Older Adults, Aging-in-place and Long-term Care in Later Life, Aging in Poverty and Wealth Inequality in Later Life, Perceived Discrimination in Older Adults, Psychosocial Risk Factors for Dementia, Cross-national/Cultural Comparative Study, Population-based Secondary Data Analyses
  8. Placeholder Profile Image

    Anne Marie Mclaughlin

    Accepting Inquiries
    Translating social work values into practice
  9. Hieu Ngo

    Hieu Ngo

    Accepting Inquiries
    Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion, Youth crime prevention, Social entrepreneurship
  10. Placeholder Profile Image

    Patricia Samson

    Accepting Inquiries
    Social Work Education, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Health/Mental Health

Admission requirements


A minimum of 3.5 GPA on a 4.0 point system, calculated on the Master of Social Work or equivalent Master’s degree.

Minimum education

A Master of Social Work or equivalent Master’s degree from a recognized institution.

Work samples

A sample of written work such as a published or unpublished scholarly paper, or a professional report.

Professional experience

A minimum of two years full-time post-master's social services practice experience.


  • A program proposal outlining the applicant’s reasons for pursuing doctoral education in social work, educational goals and career expectations, prior research course work and experience, and a research proposal.
  • A Curriculum Vitae.

Reference letters

Two; one academic and one professional.

Test scores


English language proficiency

An applicant whose primary language is not English may fulfill the English language proficiency requirement in one of the following ways:


For admission on September 1:

  • Canadians and permanent residents: December 1 application deadline
  • International students: December 1 application deadline

If you're not a Canadian or permanent resident, or if you have international credentials, make sure to learn about international requirements

Learn more about this program

Faculty of Social Work

MacKimmie Tower (MT) 301
2500 University Drive NW
Calgary, ABT2N 1N4

Visit the Faculty of Social Work website

Learn more about UCalgary by taking a virtual tour

Highlights of the Social Work program

David Este with students

Social Work researchers find cultural gaps in mental health services

David Este and Christa Sato work to reduce the stigma of mental illness in Asian men

Mishka Lysack

Helping our society transition to a lower carbon future

Mishka Lysack focuses on helping Canadians make the shift to a lower carbon future

Lana Wells

Preventing domestic violence before it occurs

Shift: The Project to End Domestic Violence seeks to reduce and prevent domestic violence